A couple of years ago, Radio Shack let thousands of people go. Of course, mass layoffs are a part of life in corporate America. But what stood out about the Radio Shack situation was that the company delivered the bad news to employees via email! This is just one dramatic example of how much people dislike delivering bad news in person. It also illustrates how in trying to avoid an unpleasant task, we often make the bad news even more painful for the recipient.
Candor Is Golden
In a July/August 1997 Harvard Business Review article, authors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne state that "people do care about outcomes, but they care more about the processes that produce those outcomes." People want to know where they stand and why. If there is a difficult message they need to hear, employees would prefer to know the truth rather than a watered down or clouded version of it.
Failing to make the grade and being fired are part of life. All professional people should be mature enough to understand and deal with these realities. But if we soft pedal the message by burying it in fluff and silver linings we're being unfair to the person who's failing or is about to be fired.
A Better Way to Deliver Bad News
Assuming that you truly do care about the person to whom you are about to deliver bad news, your delivery must strike a proper balance. You want to be explicit and honest. Candor communicates respect, and that is what people want most. But you also want to couch the message in a way that leaves your relationship with the person intact. Even better, you want the delivery and reception of the bad news to actually be a constructive experience for both sides.
One way to strike this balance is to treat the situation as an opportunity for the person to achieve growth and success. Don't think that the bad news you are about to deliver will end the person's world. Not to sound like a greeting card, but failure often sows the seeds for future success. In a sense, by helping the person react positively to the news you can actually serve as her partner in growth.
How to Prepare
If you've been tabbed to deliver bad news, prepare for the conversation by asking yourself a set of questions:
- How do I want the person to feel after our conversation?
- What can I do to allow them to hear the news with an open mind and heart?
- How can I set the context for an empathetic exchange?
Glenn has laid down the law on long articles. So I'll break off now and discuss the actual delivery of bad news in next week's issue.
Wishing you career success,
|Korey Stringer: Died of heat stroke in 2001|
Football & Occupational Safety
By Glenn Demby[NOTE: Lauryn didn't write this piece. If you have comments on it, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org]
Professional football is a violent profession. Serious injuries like concussions, paralysis and broken bones are common. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the rate of injury and illness for spectator sports in 2004 was 2.8 per 100 workers. This figure includes not just football but less violent sports like golf. So the injury rate to football players is presumably much higher.
Although rare, fatalities also take place on football fields. The last football player to die on the job was the Minnesota Vikings' Korey Stringer, a 335 pound offensive lineman who was killed by heat stroke suffered during a July 2001 practice in 108° temperatures.
NFL players have short careers. And the injuries they suffer often stay with them long after they've retired. According to a study commissioned by the NFL players' union, more than two-thirds of retired players continue to suffer with ailments they sustained in their playing days.
So what does OSHA think about all of this? Apparently, not much. Technically, spectator sports are subject to OSHA laws like other private industries. But OSHA rarely gets involved in NFL matters.
OSHA Actions against the NFL
Still, there have been a few OSHA actions against NFL teams and facilities:
- In 1994, OSHA inspected the collapse of a girder in the Georgia Dome in which a food vendor was killed;
- In 2003, OSHA investigated the fatal fall of a St. Louis Rams' stadium worker;
- OSHA has reportedly been asked to look into unsafe noise levels at NFL stadiums during games. (In a 1999 playoff game between the Vikings and Arizona Cardinals, fan noise levels inside the Minneapolis Metrodome reached 128.4 decibels!)
And, then, of course, there was the Stringer case. The OSHA Regional Office in Minnesota inspected the Vikings' practice conditions after Stringer's death in 2001. But it ruled that the club was not to blame. The team had properly trained personnel to deal with heat stress, as well as ample water and a first-aid truck. OSHA even concluded that Viking practices were shorter and less physically intense than those conducted by other NFL teams.
Stringer's widow brought a $100 million wrongful death lawsuit against the team and its medical officials. But the Minnesota Supreme Court dismissed the case.
|The Bills' Kevin Everett: Nearly died of a football injury in 2007|
2007 Football Injuries
The American Football Coaches Association commissions an annual study of injuries sustained in organized football games at all levels: professional (including NFL, indoor and sandlot), college, high school and junior high. Here are some of the numbers from the 2007 report:
- 4 Total direct fatalities sustained in football games (3 in high school, 1 professional - World Indoor Football League)
- 0.22 per 100,000 Participants The fatality rate to football players
- 9 Total indirect fatalities that occurred as a result of injuries sustained in football games (6 in high school, 1 college, 1 sandlot and 1 semi-pro)
- 33 Football players who have died from heat stroke since 1995 (25 high school, 5 college, 2 pro and 1 sandlot).
Source: National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research, Annual Survey of Football Injury Research, 2007, Feb. 2008, http://www.unc.edu/depts/nccsi/SurveyofFootballInjuries.htm
|Tom Brady: Mr. Perfect|
Like most people who don't pronounce the work dark as "dack," mislabel soda as "pop" and call sprinkles (as on a sundae) "jimmies," I hate the New England Patriots. But I also know enough about football to recognize that this group is the finest team ever to grace a football field. They got the best coach. They got the best receivers. And their QB, Tom Brady, is perfect. I'd hate them even if I weren't a Giants' fan.
But I am a Giants' fan. And while I recognize that the G-men have an opportunity to do something very, very special, I don't expect them to upset the Patriots. It could happen. Even Tiger Woods loses occasionally. But I'm not holding my breath.
Expect the Giants to keep it close until the fourth quarter. Final score:
May the gods prove me wrong. GO GIANTS!!!!
WANT A WINNING CAREER?
Look to a Patriot!
Michael Goldberg, a fellow business columnist on CIO.com has posted some great lessons we can all apply to our career planning. He turns to New England Patriot's coach Bill Belichick's key management practices. Here's a quick list of how we can all transform our work into perfect seasons:
- Make sure everyone on your team knows specifically what s/he needs to do and how it fits into the big picture;
- Talk - directly and specifically. No power points, no emails, no memos on the bulletin board;
- Focus on ONLY the task at hand;
- Choose the work you love;
- Create a culture of collective responsibility and if someone's not the right fit, deal with it quickly and humanely (see my comments above on how to deliver bad news).
The Giants will be tough contenders. Regardless of Sunday's outcome, this is a super team and it's been a super year for football and Pats fans everywhere.